The "Be Someone" bridge

My Land Use without Zoning Event, TX #1 for Small Biz, and the Be Someone Sign is Back

The lead item this week is an event announcement: I’ll be one of the speakers/panelists at the Mercatus Center’s “Land Use without Zoning: Putting Ideas into Practice” online event on May 18th.  Here’s the overview:

“Zoning and land use policy regulations present the greatest barriers to affordable housing and increased urban density.

Understanding how to navigate and remove these barriers allows for a dynamic housing market and paves the way for successful community development efforts.

The study of the impact of land use and zoning policy began with Bernard Siegan in his pioneering 1972 study, “Land Use Without Zoning.” In his book, Siegan first set out what has today emerged as a common-sense perspective: Zoning not only fails to achieve its stated ends of ordering urban growth and separating incompatible uses, but it also drives housing costs up and competition down.

Drawing on the unique example of Houston—America’s fourth-largest city, and its lone dissenter on zoning—Siegan explored the impact of a different approach to land use policy and demonstrated how land use will naturally regulate itself in a non-zoned environment and yield a greater availability of multifamily housing.

While we have gained a greater understanding of the issues created by overly burdensome land use restrictions, these policies still remain in place, restricting the growth of communities and keeping housing costs high. Join us for a discussion of how land use reform battles have evolved over time, how community groups are working to remove these barriers and increase urban density, and how barriers to development can be challenged in court.”

Register here – hope to see you there!

Moving on to this week’s items:

  • Big piece of good news buried in this one – let the sinking and debottlenecking begin!

“Though TxDOT has halted development of many segments, the portion along I-69 from Spur 527 to Texas 288 — which includes Wheeler — remains on pace for construction to start next year.”

“As of December 2020, the most fuel-efficient means of commuting was the car, followed by light trucks—but only because occupancy embedded in the transit calculations was so drastically low. …

A major premise of the Biden administration’s transportation agenda is to greatly increase federal spending on transit, compared with only modest, constrained increases for highways (with very little scope for adding highway capacity). This approach poses major risks of putting billions of taxpayer dollars into projects that will have costs far greater than their benefits (e.g., light rail systems for medium-sized cities, megaproject expansions of heavy rail and commuter rail systems, etc.).

At the very least, it is premature at this juncture to commit funding for major new rail transit projects before we have some idea of the extent of transit ridership in the first several years after nationwide vaccinations.

Finally, I’d like to end with a small celebration for whoever repainted the iconic Be Someone bridge – love it!

This piece first appeared at Houston Strategies.

Tory Gattis is a Founding Senior Fellow with the Center for Opportunity Urbanism and co-authored the original study with noted urbanist Joel Kotkin and others, creating a city philosophy around upward social mobility for all citizens as an alternative to the popular smart growth, new urbanism, and creative class movements. He is also an editor of the Houston Strategies blog.